Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I decided to go out to visit my bars on Thanksgiving night. This is the first time in 20 years I've actually tried this, partly to preserve my own sanity and partly to keep the home fires burning. But last week I checked and yes, both the main bars I go to were planning to be open. What do you expect? People to suddenly have a life? Besides, by 10 pm on a holiday a lot of people feel like going out and getting drunk -- thanks to family tension.

The Dravus street bar was open -- some recognizable regulars -- though I haven't seen "J" for awhile, and Dogboy was AWOL. I miss the lumberjack/mohel. Milk Maid behind the bar described her cooking calamity -- turkey avalanche when the entire oven tipped forward and dropped a bunch of equipment on her, to say nothing of a 350 degree bird. She's gonna be sore tomorrow.

Down the bar was a lone guy working on a pitcher. He offered to buy me a beer. I demurred, but came down and sat with him and had a reasonably lucid conversation (one of these days I'm going to lay out a system for categorizing bar conversations -- instead of one to five stars they would have to be one to five pint glasses . . . ). This RC patron talked about a family situation. He also had some nice things to say about Nightwatch from years gone by -- apparently he bartended in the area when there were more ministers on the street. God bless him, I was really happy to have had one "one pint" type conversation. Made coming out to night worth it.

Went on down to 3rd and Bell. "K" says he had a fine meal -- cooked himself dinner, ate alone. I gave the "Man With No ID" his new Driver's License which arrived this week. He is really ready to move in someplace, hopefully here at Nightwatch. Lots of women from Angelines hanging out -- evidently they come to the bar to wait for their rides to various shelters. Lots of hispanic guys in tonight. "R" #3 was gone still, and 3rd Gospel in the bar, looking good. Don't see button down shirts often back there. Silent "M" enjoyed the conversation -- some sort of affective disorder -- stroke or something. Another vet.

Back at Nightwatch -- a wild man was talking to the martians, but the crew wasn't concerned about him. They deal with him nightly and he doesn't seem to pose a threat to anyone. What a life. In early (midnight home). Rick

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Man Has Identity Restored!

The "Man With No Identity" needs a new blog name, since today, the unbelievable happened.

This saga goes back about 4 months. In my efforts to get MWNI off the street, all these obstacles emerged -- wallet stolen (everything missing). Name on his birth certificate different than the name he used in the military. Almost 30 years since he had a Washington State Driver's License. No way to collect Social Security, despite his being 65 years old.

We got his service record from the military, and with that, just today, got into the Federal Building (without ID -- sorta Catch22); they escorted us upstairs and within 15 minutes we walked out with Official VA ID Card, complete with picture, signature, date of birth. Yee-Haw.

Walking up 2nd Ave. in downtown Seattle, it was surreal. "I am somebody" he said.

"Since we're on a roll, let's go get you a Washington State ID card," I suggested. He resisted. No way. They're never going to give me that, I tried before." C'mon, let us try anyway, see what happens.

Thirty minutes later we had his temporary Washington State ID, the permanent one comes in three weeks. Unreal. MWNI is now the Man With Identity. Thanks to those who prayed: Luther Memorial Men's Group, Mistie, Dan, Gerard, Jim, and others. Thank God. Rick

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day Eve

Happy Veterans Day. Tonight we ran into vets wherever we went, from Operation Nightwatch where staff and volunteers who are vets served homeless vets a meal and found them shelter for the night, to the taverns where we ran into all sorts of interesting vets. At the end of the night at midnight, as the bar closed I went around and checked -- about 80% of the patrons were identified as vets. I thanked them all. Some were quite moved.

At the Dravus Street bar I was chided for having missed a week. Last Thursday I was ill (sorry about the lack of updates tsk tsk). Milkmaid missed me. I laughingly told her I had thought about calling in. I haven't run into such an enthusiastic response in any bar in a long time.

Met H (no teeth?). Met S. who was in total collapse and finally as the cab came to haul her (him?) out, s/he revealed he was facing a health crisis -- darkly alluded to. I gave him/her my card, said it would look better in the morning, and pushed her out. The gender confusion by the way was all ours. Pastor Dave was sure it was a guy in transition, but I was willing to think S was simply a big lady. The Marine Corps ring was curious though. S. made everyone happy, buying a round. J. played pool with Pastor Dave. K-J asked for prayer. Met K. too. Couldn't get away from her once she started her long rambling tale -- delusional I think, but God love her, she had perfect nails and offered me half her sandwich. Found out that the skinny regular has a street handle -- he greeted me civilly, but then he hadn't been there very long, unlike other visits. Dog-boy? I wonder about the derivation. Can hardly wait to hear him bark. Just hope he doesn't bite. Still no evacuees from our old haunt which continues to be shut down and no sign of a soon-resurrection on Queen Anne Hill.

Didn't get to Third and Bell until 11:15 -- despite agreeing to a short stay, Dave got involved in a pool game with R#3 who wasn't too happy with me for my failure to find him a wheelchair (I thought this would be a slam dunk and failed miserably -- then on the way home Dave said his church has two in a closet -- cha-ching!). The Man with No Identity is soon to emerge from the shadows. DDAY is next Tuesday. I found it a little ironic that I'm unable to help a homeless vet on Veteran's Day because the Vet's office is closed. Any obstacle can and will be found.

The MWNI actually teared up when I told him I was going to call my favorite WW2 vet today -- my dad. MWNI has been an orphan since he was 2 -- a loving grandparent raised him, but he wanted me to know I was truly blessed to have both parents alive. He also made a special point of wishing me a happy holiday.

Bartender "2nd Gospel" had to unlock the door to let us out at the end of the night. Visited NW staff back in the office after midnight. Off to bed, finally. Rick, late!